Another year, another series of Masterchef. I know some people feel, as with many reality TV shows, that after so many years the format has become stale and overly emotive. However, as I’ve only been watching it for 2 years (with this being the third), I’m still enjoying myself, and looking forward to another winner of the calibre of Thomasina Miers, Tim Anderson and Shelina Permalloo being discovered as a result of this process. With Thomasina now being firmly established as a cookery writer and presenter as well as proprietor of her own Mexican restaurant in London, and with Tim’s Japanese-inspired restaurant set to open in Shoreditch this spring, it’s perhaps fair to say that the winners of this show don’t fade into obscurity after their big win, with them genuinely able to capitalise on their love of food and newly-developed expertise after the show is over.
So what of the new series? The initial rounds appear to have been set up differently this year, with the first 50 contestants being split up into groups of 5. We then get to see one group of five per knockout-round show, enabling us to get to know them better even from day one. This Tuesday evening it was the turn of Emily, Sarah, Rowan, Dale and Claire. While Dale kept his cool throughout and managed to produce excellent food, and Emily’s sense of daring and natural cook’s palate impressed the judges, the other three made silly mistake on silly mistake, which saw them eliminated quickly.
Some aspects of the programme have remained the same for these initial rounds, with contenders being asked to cook dishes according to the whims based on the plate of ingredients set in front of them, with all contestants having the same ingredients in order to facilitate the judges’ comparisons later. A little bit of “freer” cooking is permitted towards the end of the episode, so the whole thing isn’t completely regimented.
There are also some interesting additions, with three of the five contestants being sent into a professional kitchen in the very first show. If I recall correctly, this did not happen before until much later in the selection process in previous series. However, it appears to be a good thing, as it gives contestants a chance to see if they can cope with the pressure early on, and to develop skills from a much earlier stage too. The palate test is another worthy segment of the programme, with John Torode cooking a dish, allowing the contestants to taste it and pick up on as many of the ingredients it contains as possible, and with the contestants then finally being given all of the ingredients (plus a few false friends to deliberately throw them) and being asked to cook the same dish themselves without a recipe. This not only shows whether the contenders have a natural cook’s brain, but also whether their tastebuds’ perceptions can be translated into practice.
My only criticism would be India Fisher, the BBC’s choice of voiceover artist. To my mind, it makes no sense to have someone doing the voiceover for a food show when they clearly have gaps in their knowledge. Sorry to be anal, but it’s pronounced “crem patissiAIR”, not “crem patisserEE”, and the little pieces of bacon are just “lardons”, not “bacon lardons” (as opposed to what? Banana lardons? Fish lardons? You cannot have lardons made from any other ingredient!). Sadly I suspect that we are stuck with her for the whole series – but if that’s the only thing that’s wrong, then let the good times roll.